Culture Before Tools @ Raven Industries

By on February 26, 2014
Culture Before Tools at Raven Industries

Guest Blogger: Pete Gereau, Plant Manager, Raven Industries, Applied Technology Division

The Earth City facility of Raven Industries, the Applied Technology Division, is improving operations through the implementation of Lean. We are a leading OEM of precision agriculture products that help farmers feed the world. We design, develop and manufacture precision equipment to improve farmer’s crop yields while ensuring the most efficient use of chemicals and accurate seed distribution. We also design and manufacture electronic motor controls and wireless systems primarily utilized in adjustable furniture applications. Our company is headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Our facility in Earth City is primarily a manufacturing facility although we also have design capability.

Our management team officially started our Lean journey in September of 2013. We interviewed three different consultants before we choose to work with St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solutions Group. George Friesen is their representative and our consultant. We also partnered with the Workforce Solutions Group to apply for and receive funding through the Missouri Customized Training Grant Program to assist with training costs.

Our approach is to create a Lean culture by exposing all employees to the Lean concepts and thought processes. We are aware that the majority of companies fail to sustain Lean after a successful implementation. This is because they implement the Lean tools before they address the Lean culture. At Raven Industries we are taking the opposite approach and addressing the culture first.

Our management and employees are currently engaged in “Kaizen Thinking” training which focuses on learning to see the various aspects of waste and how to form and execute successful Kaizen events to address areas in need of improvement. This is being supplemented with a book review by our management team of David Mann’s “Creating a Lean Culture.”

Early in 2014 our teams will be engaged in training for 6S and value stream mapping. This is where we will learn the tools of Lean. Although full implementation will take some time we will aggressively pursue opportunities to use Lean thinking in our processes, management style and continuous improvement efforts in 2014 and beyond.

By embracing the culture first before the tools I am confident that we are improving our chances of a successful and sustainable Lean system. I greatly appreciate George Friesen’s contribution to training our team and look forward to working with him this year as we move further into the Lean process.

Contact Pete Gereau for more information on how Raven Industries is creating a Lean culture.

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Raven Industries began partnering with the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College in 2013. To date, George Friesen, STLCC’s Business Practice Leader for Lean Transformations has conducted training and consulting for all employees in Kaizen Thinking processes to be followed by training to support the implementation of the Idea Board, 6S and Value Stream Mapping.

About Pete Gereau

Pete Gereau is the Plant Manager of Raven Industries, Applied Technology Division, in Earth City, Missouri. He has 30 years of electronics manufacturing experience and has served in many different roles and positions during that time in Sales, Quality, Program Management, and Operations Management.

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